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From the Marbles

Happy Hour: Did Paul Menard spin on team orders?

From The Marbles

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Welcome to the latest Happy Hour mailbag! You know how these work: you write us with your best rant/ joke/ one-liner at nascarmail@yahoogroups.com or on Twitter at @jaybusbee, we respond to your messages, everyone goes away with a smile on their face.

It's probably a little late to tell you this now, but if you were looking to get a nonbeliever into NASCAR, last Saturday night's race at Richmond would've made them a convert for life. That was as close to a perfect event as I've seen in awhile. And it had slatherings of controversy, which made it so much better. Let's start with those:

Can someone investigate the Menard "spin" further? I watched it a few times, and on the radio he says it feels like a tire is down. All the tires look okay to me, and ABC decided not to show what happened before he was in the grass. What do you think?

—Jason Robinson

We got a ton of emails on this topic, and so I've chosen this one as representative of all of them. (It features the fewest curses, potentially libelous statements and questions about the parentage of Menard, Kevin Harvick and Richard Childress.) Here's the thing: yes, the timing was highly suspect, considering Jeff Gordon was driving away from Menard's teammate, Kevin Harvick. And Menard didn't seem to be endangering the field; that close to the end of the race, you've got to wonder if maybe they could tell Menard just to get out of the way and sit tight. Seventeen laps is probably too long to wait on that, but it's a thought.

Anyway, a couple of points: if you look at Menard's front right tire in this video, you can clearly see that it's off-kilter. Now, was it put off-kilter by that spin? Perhaps. Also, as I'd mentioned earlier this week, Gordon has to get better on restarts; I'm fairly sure there'll be a Green-White-Checker or two in the Chase, and he's got to master those if he's going to master the Chase.

So, yeah, Menard and the Childress guys shouldn't be surprised if there's suspicion in their direction. But as long as this kind of thing doesn't affect the Chase picture, it'll be forgotten soon enough.

{ysp:more}

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Seriously, Carl Edwards and his sponsors are getting out of control. He had a Kellogg's / Cheez-it car this week. That's a sponsorship that should be with another team needing sponsorship. It's no longer one major sponsor and several smaller/regional sponsors like in the old days; he has Aflac, Scotts, Kellog's, Subway, and Valvoline. Now it may be UPS signing up for 4-8 races next year because they want to cut back...I am sorry for the rant, it's just been bugging me.

—Cliff Francis

Never apologize for ranting, Cliff! That's what we're here for. Sadly, though, you're ranting about a losing cause. You can't force sponsors to spend money on drivers they don't want to sponsor, and these sponsors have determined that a part-time sponsorship of Carl Edwards is a better investment than a full-season sponsorship of another driver. You can't blame Edwards for that, and you can't blame the sponsors. About all you can do is hope that the lesser-knowns step up and run better in order to catch the sponsor's eye.

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On Friday, there was the big blow up (AGAIN!) with Tony Stewart and the media. The minute Tony gets into a slightly off mood, he turns into a first class jerk. I know he was stressed about making the Chase and I'm sure it gets monotonous to be asked the same questions, but I root hard for the guy because he is so talented and it gets tiresome to hear him rail on that like that. Maybe I am naive in how the Nascar driver-media world works, but doesn't the media have a little bit of power in this situation? When Tony needs something from you guys, he can suck up with the best of them so he knows he needs you. What would happen if, during the next couple race weekends, reporters just ignored him? If he is treating people like crap, is it feasible to just not cover him? I'm guessing if a couple weeks went by and Mobil1 and Office Depot weren't getting good coverage he might change his tune, especially if they lose Chase coverage. We all know Tony has a "good guy" in there somewhere because at times you see it. But that doesn't mean you get to trash people when you are annoyed. Everybody has a job to do. I would get fired if I spoke to my co-workers the way he spoke to the media on Friday.   He turned 40 this year - maybe growing up is in order?

—Sue Bilger
Seattle, Wash.

Turning your back on Stewart is a nice idea if you're one of the media people getting blasted, but despite what some media (your humble writer here included) seem to think, we're not the story. And if the media were to decide en masse to stop covering Stewart, the media would indeed become the story. Tony Stewart fans love him because he can act like a jerk to the media, and fans of NASCAR in general don't much care about the fights between drivers and the media; they want to hear about the races. For the media to willfully disregard that would be an abandonment of core principles. Yes, the media — the reputable media — does live by core principles. Don't confuse tabloid media with more respected outlets; understand that it's the difference between a fast food and a home-cooked meal.

Despite what some rabid anti-media types have said in the wake of the Stewart and Kurt Busch controversies of this past weekend, the media plays an essential role in the overall NASCAR ecosystem. So do the tracks, so do the crews, so do the administrative types, so do you. We're all a part of this together. The media is an easy target because it's easy to pull the old politician's trick of demonizing one sector of society and loading them up with "responsibility" for all problems. ("We'd be just fine if the media weren't going around stirring up stuff!") Don't fall for that garbage. Pick your favorite media members (a-hem), trust and follow them, and think for yourself.

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Jay, would you agree with me that Kurt Busch should be docked points for his news conference behavior? I'm not saying he should be arrested or sued, but NASCAR should take action. This kind of behavior from a leading NASCAR driver sets a poor example for young fans; if you're famous, you can act like a complete and utter boor.

That kind of press intimidation, whether it's stepping into the face of a reporter, or grabbing a piece of paper from another reporter and tearing it up, should not be tolerated. Of course, at least he was an equal opportunity idiot, so I won't get into a chauvinist angle (although I would say no matter what, it's poor form to do that to any woman).

If Junior could be docked for saying, on live TV, in a post-race victory celebration of all things, a word that rhymes with "knit", Busch should be docked five points for this. Maybe it will set an example for Smoke, who has also been known to cross a line not just verbally but physically.

It's clear no one has ever stood up to this bully ... One day, he's going to do that to the wrong person, and he's going to get taught a lesson. I've been in my fair share of scrapes, but there's a time and a place for it.

—Jeff S aka "Sarge"
Statesboro, Ga.

I was about six feet away from Busch when he tore up the transcript; matter of fact, it was my transcript he tore up, because I was working on this article here when that press conference started. The issue with Busch wasn't really intimidation in the sense that anyone felt threatened; it was more that people didn't feel like getting chewed out or mocked by a guy who had a microphone at his disposal.

The points deduction is a good idea, though I don't see anything like that happening in reality. NASCAR needs to step up and realize this isn't just busting on the media, which is an easy target, but as you said, makes for a terrible public image for the sport.

To be fair, Busch did call both reporters he had incidents with and apologized for his actions. That's a step forward. We all have bad days. But words are easy; actions, more difficult.

And they should print the transcripts on vinyl. That stuff's murder to tear.

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I'm an unapologetic Kyle Busch fan. I cheer. I clap. I admire his refusal to accept defeat. And, yes, I occasionally roll my eyes at his more childish antics. BUT, unlike fans of some drivers (*cough*Junior*cough*), I don't feel the need to lecture other fans about the shortcomings of their boys.

On the tram back to our campsite from what was one of the best races I've seen at RIR, my mother, husband, friend and I were treated to a 10-minute lecture from a fan of another driver about 1) why Kyle Busch is a horrible human being, 2) why Joe Gibbs should be banned from the sport and 3) the giant NASCAR/M&Ms conspiracy that keeps Kyle Busch from getting in trouble. All this sparked by the fact that I had the audacity to wear an M&Ms racing visor — not even an entire ball cap. A visor.

Seriously? I'd let this go if this were the first time, but it's not. Every race I go to, I run into someone like that obnoxious gentleman on the tram. I get that other people don't like Kyle Busch. That's fine. There are quite a few drivers I don't care for. The difference is: I don't assume that fans of the drivers I dislike care about what I think. So, here's my message to other fans: The next time you're thinking about making a comment to the unsuspecting fan who's doing nothing more than wearing a hat/T-shirt for a driver you don't like, KEEP IT TO YOURSELF. Neither I, nor any other fan, care AT ALL that you don't like our driver.

And, for the record, I'm through being polite and smiling through these situations. My already well rehearsed response for next time: "With all due respect sir/ma'am, I don't care what you think. I'm invoking my right to ignore you."

—Liz
Chesterfield

I'd think that a Kyle Busch fan would have a better response for a Junior fan, something like, "We've got so darn many wins we're starting to lose track of them. Want a couple? I know you're hard up." But that probably wouldn't end well.

You've got to love the fans who are completely monomaniacal in their love (or hate) of a driver. Still, it's a shame that some fans blur the lines between fandom and obsession; I've gotten emails from people who couldn't be (and probably wouldn't be) madder at me if I'd insulted their mother.

And Liz, like 48 fans, you should take heart: they're mad because you're winning.

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When are they going to do something about the Nationwide series drivers? Cup series drivers have won 23 of the 27 races so far. They have also taken over $4,380,000.00 in prize money. Only four races were won by NW drivers and theses were races at other venues Cup drivers couldn't make. How do they expect NW drivers to progress in the series if the cup drivers keep competing against them? ... I think it's time to get the cup drivers out of the Nationwide. NW drivers would get more recognition, more prize money and better sponsorship. I personally am tired of watching Cup Drivers run in these races. What are the benefits of the series the way it is now? Is Nascar planning to do anything about this soon?

—Mick

This is a question that comes up pretty much every week, and I wanted to address it this week for a couple reasons. First, to answer your last questions, Mick: the benefit of having Cup drivers in the Nationwide series is that it gets many more people in the stands who wouldn't be there to watch lesser-known drivers. They want to see Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards, Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski and the rest, and there's a pretty good chance those guys will dominate the field. (As well they should.) Why would NASCAR and the track promoters do anything about that?

More to the point, though, this weekend we saw two very different performances by Sprint Cup drivers in the Nationwide series. Brad Keselowski got taken out by Danica Patrick, and in effect said he couldn't be mad about that because the Nationwide is, by definition, a developmental series. On the other hand, you had Kevin Harvick, who scuffled with Jason Leffler and ended up taking out another Nationwide regular, Trevor Bayne. Bottom line, this isn't changing anytime soon, so the best we can hope for is for the Sprint Cup drivers to play straight with the Nationwide drivers and try not to torpedo their chances at a championship. Lord knows hellfire would rain if a Nationwide driver running in Cup happened to take out a guy running for the title.

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Hello, I was wondering if there is an incentive for a driver finishing 13th by the end of the season. Are they racing for pride, or is there a bonus for being the "best of the rest"? Thanks!

—Andy Ritzert
Maricopa, Ariz.

There's no prize or bonus for finishing 13th, and even if there was, I'm not sure anyone would want to claim it. Congrats! Of the suckiest drivers, you sucked the least!

And on that note, we're out. Thanks to all our writers this week. You want in? Fire up the computer and hit us with whatever's on your mind, NASCAR-wise, at nascarmail@yahoogroups.com, find us on Facebook right here, or hit us up on Twitter at @jaybusbee. Make sure to tell us where you're from. We'll make you famous!

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